When I started this blog, I really had no idea what I was doing and where it would lead me. Arguably I still don't really know what I'm doing compared to the legion of ridiculously talented foodie bloggers out there. And as to where it would lead me...I think I'm still on that road and haven't yet arrived at any destinations.
What has happened though, is that I've made some new friends. Half of whom I've now met, and the other half I've only communicated online. It's a bit like internet dating! You're initially drawn together based simply on interest (all things food), the first tentative comment left or tweet twittered, then friendly online banter. And like real life, a small handful do actually become friends! (remembering that you can't be friends with everyone you meet).
A little while ago, something else happened. Something that only fellow foodies can truly appreciate I think.
I've been following an Australian food blogger - I like the beautiful, emotive photos he takes and his principles on the fundamentals of understanding where your food comes from and appreciating it (i.e. not just from your supermarket shelf all beautifully packaged). Anyway, I comment on a couple of his posts, and he does the same on mine. The next thing you know, I've been asked if I would like to be one of his recipe testers for his upcoming new cookbook!
I mean seriously. Although we've struck up a friendship due to our blogs, the man doesn't know me from a bar of soap. And I can't bring myself to be arrogant enough to think that I'm that good a cook. So all I can put it down to, is this friendship that has been built around our love for food, that has gotten me this recipe testing 'gig'.
Did I tell you how I did a bit of a victory lap around my minuscule kitchen? Bugger how many visits or comments my blog gets. Making friends and having been asked to be a recipe tester for an upcoming cookbook is better! Sooo much better.
Now I can't list all the ingredients of the recipes I'm testing, but I can show you photos and tell you about my experience making the recipe. I did make my own pasta (for the first time!) to go with the mushroom sauce. Now that I can go into detail. :-)
I wanted to use wild/field mushrooms for this sauce. But do you think I was able to get any? Farmers markets, speciality stores, regular supermarkets...and I came up zilch. Sure, there was 'exotic' mushrooms if I wanted those. But no wild mushrooms to be bought! It was pretty frustrating. So I settled for good 'ol dependable portabello and brown cap mushrooms. I figured that these would give me a certain degree of earthiness that the wild varieties would have.
The recipe was easy to follow - not a crazy long list of ingredients, but just a handful of necessary ingredients to make the sauce taste just right, like fresh herbs and a glug of some quality wine. The end product was this silky creamy sauce with a lovely earthy flavour. And it went very well with some pappardelle pasta.
Apart from gnocchi, I've not made pasta before and thought perhaps it was time to take the pasta machine out of its box and use it for only the second time since it was purchased last December. Making the dough turned out to be relatively easy.
...a little bit of this (good quality stuff)...
Get your hands into it...
...and work it all into a nice big ball of dough.
After a bit of resting, dividing up into smaller balls and refrigeration, the dough is passed through my pasta maker roller thingy majig.
The harder part of making this pasta was rolling it out through the machine. I have no photos for you of the mound of fresh pappardelle that was laid out on a large baking tray. Reason? My first attempt at pasta making came out all knobbly, uneven widths and thickness - as you no doubt see from the photos of the cooked pasta. Although my pasta was nothing to look at, but once cooked, it had a lovely texture and flavour. The difference between store-bought and homemade pasta is so ridiculously obvious!
But I do have this photo.
My crooked knobbly homemade pasta definitely looks much better when smothered in mushroom sauce.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup + 2 tbsp semolina flour, plus more for dusting (I use semolina 'fine')
6 large eggs, at room temperature
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Sift the flours together onto a large work space on your kitchen bench or dining table.
- Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the well and add the olive oil. (try and make a deep-ish well so that your eggs & olive oil mixture does not spill out and over the mountain on flour).
- With a fork, start beating the eggs to break them up. Continue to mix with your fork, bringing in a little flour at a time into the egg mixture. Essentially you're working from inside, out.
- Once you've got your flour 'wet', its time to start using your hands. Dust your hands with flour and start bringing in the dough to form a large clump.
- Start kneading the dough - push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, and then fold the dough over itself and turn counter-clockwise. Repeat this kneading action until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough starts to stick to your work surface or your hands as you're working on it, dust your hands and the dough with a light dusting of flour.
- Rest the dough for 10 minutes and then divide the dough into 2 balls. Flatten the balls of dough slightly, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- When you're ready to roll out your pasta, take your dough out from the fridge and work on it straight away.
- You can role out the pasta into sheets with a rolling pin or the use of a pasta making machine - I used a machine.
- Divide each refrigerated 'block' of dough up in half, and flatten the dough a tiny bit more before feeding it through the roller of the pasta making machine. Each time you roll the dough through the machine, adjust your roller back one number/mark, so that the sheet of pasta dough is rolled thinner and thinner with each progression. I needed to feed each sheet through 4 times to get the thickness desired. I also found that a very light dusting of flour (I use a sift) after each roll prevents the dough from sticking to the machine or bench.
- After each block of dough is rolled out to a nice sheet of pasta dough, dust the top of the sheet lightly with flour and roll loosely into a cylinder or 'cigar'. With a sharp knife, cut into wide rings of pasta, unroll each ring and dust with semolina and gently toss to separate the strands of pasta.
- Place your pappardelle pasta on a large baking tray and if not cooking straight away, cover the pasta with a damp tea towel. Or freeze straight away in freezer bags.
- Cook pasta in rapidly boiling water that's been well salted.